The question of who will defend the five men against whom the Delhi Police filed a charge sheet in Saket Court on Thursday, for the gangrape and brutal assault on a 23-year-old student and her friend, remains unresolved.
The Saket Bar Association, taking a moral stand, has passed a resolution not to represent the accused.
The President of the Association speaking to Firstpost earlier had said that the option of seeking legal aid was open to the accused. “It is the fundamental right of the accused. An advocate from legal aid services can defend them,” he had said.
In the present circumstances, the court is expected to appoint a lawyer. According to criminal lawyers familiar with the procedure, the accused can either accept the lawyer appointed by the court or, should they feel the court-appointed lawyer is not competent, name a lawyer of their choice.
A lawyer named by the accused can then be appointed as amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist the trial. A case in point is the Naina Sahni case (1995), which came to be known as the Tandoor case, where a senior counsel KK Sud, who subsequently served as additional solicitor general of India, was appointed amicus curiae to defend prime accused Sushil Sharma.
The top-notch defence notwithstanding, Sharma, a former Youth Congress leader, was sentenced to death by a trial court. His appeal is pending before the Supreme Court. (On appointment as ASG in 2001, Sud withdrew as Sharma’s counsel.)
In cases where amicus curiae is appointed, lawyers say, the court bears the expenses of the lawyer’s services.
Given the government maintaining a high level of secrecy on every aspect of the Delhi gangrape case, it is not known whether the accused have sought legal assistance or have been granted legal counseling.
Of the multiple offences they have been charged with, murder and dacoity with murder are punishable by the death penalty. Other charges against them include gang-rape, attempt to murder, destruction of evidence, kidnapping, dacoity, common intention to commit the crime, unnatural offences and criminal conspiracy.
The sixth accused, a minor, has not been named in the charge-sheet. He will be tried by the Juvenile Justice Board.
On Saturday (5 January), the court is expected to take cognizance of the charge-sheet that was filed on Thursday and summon the accused to appear before the court.
The court will then proceed to frame charges against the accused and ask them how they plead. And then finally, the trial will begin in a fast-track court, where proceedings will be held in-camera.